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UK space sector trajectory rises through the economic storm

12 Jul 2012


The UK Space Agency this week revealed the figures from its latest report on the ‘Size and Health of the UK Space Sector’. The Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, announced at the Farnborough International Airshow that the total contribution of the space sector to the UK economy was £9.1B for 2010/2011. With an average annual growth rate of 7.5%, the continued contribution of space to the economy is a remarkable success in the current conditions.


Government and industry representatives have met today in the Space Zone of the UK’s flagship aerospace trade show to discuss the ongoing growth of the sector in the face of economic constraints.

The latest positive figures help show the upward path of space in the UK, and industry has recognized the opportunities. The conference, entitled ‘The Space Growth Agenda: Meet it or Beat it’, has provided a forum to explore the opportunities available for expansion into and across the sector.

Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth, Applications and EU Programmes, spoke at the conference. She commented:

“Space is not a new industry in the UK; we have 50 years of knowledge and expertise behind us. And that knowledge and expertise forms the foundation for the opportunities of the next fifty years. Space is now part of our everyday lives. There is a market growing for space data and technologies, ready to be developed by companies that haven’t yet considered how space could help them. The UK Space Agency is working with industry to build a supportive environment for the commercial space sector.”

The downstream sector, which uses services based on space technology, reported an average annual growth rate of 8.5% between 2008/09 and 2010/11. The programme today focused on applications in space which the UK has particular capabilities in and which also offer promising opportunities for growth. This includes use of satellites by the aviation industry, agriculture and for carbon trading.

The health of the UK industry reflects well on the past two years of strategic investment by government in key technological innovations, aimed to leverage the investment necessary for growth. The UK Space Agency has been investing - through its £10m National Space Technology programme, individual projects such as Avanti’s Hylas-1 and the recent £21 million investment in the new NovaSAR constellation. The Agency has confirmed the framework of how it will continue that momentum in the new ‘Civil Space Strategy’, published this week.

The figures announced this week show that employment in the sector has also continued to grow at an average rate of 7.5% per year. The Civil Space Strategy, highlights the need for a highly skilled technical workforce for the sustainability of the sector with 80% of the 28,943 strong workforce holding at least one degree.

Space has long been one of the unsung success stories of the UK economy with the sector consistently on an upward trajectory. Space is more in demand than ever and the UK space sector is working together to deliver.

For further information please contact:

Madeleine Russell
Press Officer
UK Space Agency
Mob: +44 (0)7818 043659

Images of the events at Farnborough are available from the UK Space Agency press office.

Notes to editors:

The Size and Health of the UK Space Sector

Preliminary Headline Survey Results

1. Total space-related turnover was £9.1 billion in 2010/11(compared to £7.5 billion in 2008/09). This represents a real growth of 15.6% since 2008/09. The average annual growth rate over the last two years surveyed has been 7.5%.Together these growth rates suggest that the UK space industry has performed extremely well in difficult economic circumstances.

2. Of the total turnover of £9.1 billion, the upstream sector accounted for £0.9 billion. The downstream sector reported an average annual growth rate of 8.5% between 2008/09 and 2010/11. Although the comparable figure for the upstream sector was 0.6% this still compares favourably to UK economy wide GDP figures.

3. In 2010/11 the UK space industry made a value added contribution of £4.1 billion to UK GDP. Using a multiplier to account for the indirect and the induced impacts of the industry the total value added contribution to UK GDP in 2010/11 is estimated to be £8.2 billion.

4. Employment in the space industry has continued to grow rapidly since the previous survey to reach 28,943 in 2010/11 with an annual average growth rate of almost 7.5%. Survey responses indicate a highly qualified workforce with almost 80% holding a first degree.

The full ‘Size and Health of the UK Space Sector’ will be available later this year.

The 2008/2009 ‘Size and Health’ report and Civil Space Strategy document is available in the publilcations section of our website.

The Civil Space Strategy The ‘Civil Space Strategy’ setting out the direction for the UK space sector over the next four years was published Tuesday 10th July at the Farnborough International Airshow. The Strategy is set out by the UK Space Agency to provide a framework for the sector to contribute to UK economic growth over the next four years. The document is updated every four years.

Download the UK Civil Space Strategy 2012-2016. (PDF, 4.6 Mb) 

UK Space Agency
The UK Space Agency is at the heart of UK efforts to explore and benefit from space. It is responsible for all strategic decisions on the UK civil space programme and provides a clear, single voice for UK space ambitions.

The UK Space Agency is responsible for ensuring that the UK retains and grows a strategic capability in the space-based systems, technologies, science and applications. It leads the UK’s civil space programme in order to win sustainable economic growth, secure new scientific knowledge and provide benefits to all citizens.

The UK Space Agency:

  • Co-ordinates UK civil space activity
  • Encourages academic research
  • Supports the UK space industry
  • Raises the profile of UK space activities at home and abroad
  • Increases understanding of space science and its practical benefits
  • Inspires our next generation of UK scientists and engineers
  • Licences the launch and operation of UK spacecraft
  • Promotes co-operation and participation in the European Space programme

I work in space

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